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Tricky Love Affair: Suspension of the Dutch Ambassador to China over Beijing Romance

The suspension of the Dutch ambassador to China over an alleged love affair with a local employee made headlines earlier this week. On Weibo, Chinese netizens wonder what the fuss is about.

Manya Koetse

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The suspension of the Dutch ambassador to China over an alleged love affair with a local employee made headlines earlier this week. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf has now revealed more details on the affair. On Weibo, Chinese netizens wonder what the fuss is about.

The suspension of the Dutch ambassador to China made headlines in the Netherlands on October 17. The 58-year old diplomat Ron Keller was reportedly suspended from his post after reports of a secret relationship between him and a local employee.

The affair became international news when the BBC also reported Keller’s suspension, followed by various Chinese media outlets such as Sina and Tencent, which all published that that Keller – who is unmarried – was under investigation for having an affair with a Chinese woman.

“Less experienced officials were warned by UK government security experts to avoid the lure of “Chinese spies offering sex”.”

The Dutch government warns diplomats not to start romantic relationships with locals due to the dangers of the so-called ‘honeytrap’ – the risk of local agents working as spies. This kind of love affairs makes diplomats more vulnerable to blackmail, with the risk of leaking sensitive information.

In the article “From China with Love“, Irish Times reporter Peter Cluskey writes that the threat of a honeytrap is nothing new and that foreign diplomats arriving in China are routinely advised against relationships with local staff due to the risk of being “compromised” by agents of the Chinese government.

He also reports that during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, less experienced officials were warned by UK government security experts to avoid the lure of “Chinese spies offering sex.”

Although Keller must have been aware of the risk, it did not stop him from starting an intimate relationship with a female member of the local staff, who allegedly visited Keller at his private Beijing residence on numerous occasions.

Ron Keller, picture by ad.nl.

Ron Keller, picture by ad.nl.

Today, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf comes with new details on the Keller affair.

“Sources call Keller a ‘true womanizer’, who was also known to be flirtatious with women during his former work as ambassador.”

According to De Telegraaf journalist Marcel Vink, the Chinese woman on Keller’s staff involved in the scandal is Mandy Xia, a woman from Fuzhou who has been working in the Dutch embassy in Beijing since 7 years.

Xia studied at Beijing’s Dance Academy, and with her expertise in the field of art, dance, music and theater, she became the Cultural Affairs Officer at the Dutch embassy in December 2009.

Mandy Xia, picture published by De Telegraaf.

Mandy Xia, picture published by De Telegraaf.

Ambassador Keller was and Xia worked closely together at times, such as during their visit to Chinese multinational Wanda Productions.

The Telegraaf writes that according to its sources, ambassador Keller and Ms. Xia were not just involved in a romantic relationship but also exchanged compromising photographs.

Sources interviewed by the Dutch newspaper calls Keller a “true womanizer” who was also known to be flirtatious with women during his former work as an ambassador in Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey. He was appointed as the Dutch ambassador to China nine months ago, and his affair with Xia allegedly started not long after his first period in Beijing.

“It is a basic human right for this unmarried man to have a relationship with a Chinese woman.”

While the Keller affair became big news in the Netherlands and beyond, many Chinese social media users do not see what the fuss is about. “This is a single guy, so what!?”, was one of the most recurring comments on Weibo and other Chinese social media sites where the Keller case was discussed by many.

Some netizens think it is ironic that while foreign diplomats in China stress the importance of human rights, they do not have the right to choose their own girlfriends: “It is a basic human right for this unmarried man to have a relationship with a Chinese woman. Why are you talking about human rights to us?”, one netizen comments.

Although many netizens think the woman just was attracted to Keller because of his position (“She wants to be the wife of an ambassador,”) there are also those who are sure that the affair is a honeytrap (měirénjì 美人计), saying: “This woman clearly is a special agent (特工)!”

One article on WeChat compares Keller to the ambassador of Spain, Manuel Maria Valencia Alonso, who also caused controversy in 2015 for his affair with Chinese writer Zhu Zhiping. The woman exposed their affair, that began in 2013 – when the ambassador was married -, by writing a book titled Mr. Ambassador.

The Spanish ambassador and Zhu Zhiping.

The Spanish ambassador and Zhu Zhiping.

Zhu Zhiping alleged that the ambassador abruptly cut off their relationship in 2015, after which she spotted him with another woman. When she confronted him, he slapped her in the face, she said. She later protested at the Spanish Embassy, saying it was a place for the ambassador “to play around with Chinese females.”

Protest at the embassy.

Protest at the embassy.

But in the case of Keller, many people keep stressing the fact that he is an unmarried man, and that his relationship to Xia is therefore not an illicit love affair: “This is just two people who love each other, what’s the big deal?”, one person comments.

Although there are no indications that the relationship between Xia and Keller involved any kind of ‘honeytrap’, the ambassador has now been suspended and is currently back in the Netherlands.

– By Manya Koetse
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Featured image: Keller, the Dutch embassy (Weibo), Mandy Xia (iFeng News, 2011).

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

From Hong Kong Protests to ‘Bright Future’ – The Top 3 Most Popular Posts on Weibo This Week

These are the most-read posts on Weibo this week.

Manya Koetse

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The three most-read posts on Weibo over the past week – an overview by What’s on Weibo.

The protests in Hong Kong have been dominating Chinese social media throughout August, and the past week has been no different. Two out of three most-read posts on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms, were about Hong Kong this week.

A wrap-up:

 

#1 Hundreds of Hong Kong Taxi’s Flying Chinese National Flag

Image shared by CCTV on their Weibo account.

While Hong Kong is gearing up for the 13th consecutive weekend of mass anti-government demonstrations, there are no signs of the protests fizzling out any time soon.

The Hong Kong protests started in March and April of this year against an extradition bill that would allow local authorities to detain and extradite people wanted in mainland China, and have intensified over the past weeks.

Although authorities in mainland China initially remained quiet on the topic, the Hong Kong demonstrations have been dominating the trending streams on China’s popular social media platforms for all of August.

Through videos, online posters, and slogans, Chinese state media have propagated a clear narrative on the situation in Hong Kong; namely that a group of “separatists” or “bandits” are to blame for the riots that aim to “damage public security” in Hong Kong and are “dividing the nation.”

News outlets such as People’s Daily and CCTV are sharing many stories that emphasize the One China principle and praise the Hong Kong police force. Those voices in Hong Kong speaking up for the police force and condemning protesters using violence have been amplified in Chinese media.

One story that became the number one trending post on Weibo this week is that of dozens of Hong Kong taxi drivers hanging the Chinese national flag from their cars (video).

On August 23, the taxi drivers reportedly formed a rally against violence at Tsim Sha Tsui, waving the flags and putting up signs saying “I love HK, I love China.”

The hashtag “500 Hong Kong Taxi’s Hanging up Chinese National Flags” (#香港500辆的士挂上国旗#), hosted by CCTV, attracted over 700 million views on Weibo. The CCTV post reporting on the event received over half a million likes and 47000 shares.

The commenters mostly praise the Hong Kong taxi drivers for “standing up for Hong Kong” and flying the Chinese flag.

In English-language media, it has mostly been Chinese state media reporting on the rally. Xinhua, Women of China, ECNS, and Global Times all reported on the August 23 peace rally.

CNN only shortly reported how “a number of taxis have been spotted driving around the city displaying Chinese flags — something that has not happened on this scale during previous protests” (link).

 

#2 ‘Bright Future’ Title Song for Upcoming Movie ‘The Moon Remembers All’

Over 266.000 Weibo users have been sharing a post by Chinese actor Li Xian (李现) on the title track for the new Chinese movie The Moon Remembers All or River on a Spring Night (Chinese title: 春江花月夜).

The upcoming movie itself is a very popular topic on Weibo recently, attracting 430 million views on its hashtag page alone. The movie just finished shooting and will be released in 2020.

The song titled “Bright Future” (前程似锦) is sung by Taiwanese singer Chen Linong (陈立农) and Li Xian, who are both the leading actors in the fantasy movie. The song was released on August 29.

The Moon Remembers All is produced by Edko Films and directed by Song Haolin (宋灏霖), also known for Mr. Zhu’s Summer (2017) and Fatal Love (2016).

 

#3 Interview with Hong Kong Pro-Beijing LegCo Member Junius Ho

The third most popular Weibo post of this week comes from Xia Kedao (侠客岛), a popular commentator account for the People’s Daily Overseas Edition, and concerns a live broadcasted interview with Hong Kong lawmaker and Legislative Council (LegCo) member Junius Kwan-yiu Ho.

Junius Ho (何君尧) is known as being ‘pro-Beijing’ and stirred controversy earlier this summer when a viral video showed him shaking hands with men wearing white T-shirts who allegedly were linked to the mob attacking people at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

Xia Kedao describes Junius Ho as a “straightforward” politician who “speaks out for justice” and denounces “reactionaries.”

In the August 28 interview, that was live-streamed on Sina Weibo and later also written up, the Hong Kong legislator discussed the background of the protests.

Ho argues that the people with “ulterior motives” used the extradition bill for their own power struggle, distorting and exaggerating the facts behind the regulation.

The politician also partly links the protests to a “weak national consciousness” in Hong Kong due to its education curriculum and says that there have not been enough legal consequences for those participating in illegal activities and riots.

Thousands of commenters on Weibo write that they appreciate Ho for speaking out against the “pro-independence riot youth” and praise him for his “deep understanding” of mainland China.

By now, Junius Ho, who is also active on Weibo with his own account, has gathered more than half a million fans on his page.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Media

CCTV Launches Dramatic Propaganda Video Condemning Hong Kong Protests, Praising HK Police Force

This CCTV video leaves no doubt about what narrative on the Hong Kong protests it’s trying to convey.

Manya Koetse

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This week, while the protests in Hong Kong were intensifying, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV published a video on its social media channels in support of the Hong Kong Police Force. The hashtag used with the video is “HK Police, We Support You!” (香港警察我们挺你#).

“Evil will not press [us] down! A Sir [HK Officers], 1.4 billion compatriots support you!” is the sentence used to promote the video.

The video was initially issued by Xiaoyang Video (小央视频), CCTV’s short video platform, on August 13. There is a Cantonese and a Mandarin version of the same video, which is spread on various channels from Weibo to Bilibili, from YouTube to iQiyi.

“Hong Kong is not a place you can do whatever you please with” is the other message promoted in the video, that uses words such as “terrorists” and “bandits” to describe the Hong Kong protesters.

The sentence that Hong Kong is not a place “to do whatever you like with” (“香港,不是你们为所欲为的地方”) comes from one of the movie scenes incorporated in the video (Hong Kong movie Cold War 2 / 寒战2).

The video is a compilation of footage using TV dramas and movies combined with actual footage from the recent protests.

By using spectacular images and dramatic film scenes, the video conveys a dramatic narrative on the Hong Kong protests, clearly portraying the Police Force as the good guys fighting against evil.

As the video is being liked and shared by thousands of web users on various platform, one popular comment on video platform Bilibili says: “No matter whether it’s a natural disaster, or a man-made disaster, we can overcome this.”

Some of the footage used in this video comes from Firestorm, a 2013 Hong Kong action film (the first 3D Hong Kong police action film). Hong Kong police thriller films Cold War and its sequel are also used, along with Hong film The White Storm (2013), Shock Wave (2017), Tactical Unit: Comrades in Arms (2009), Kill Zone (2005), crime drama Line Walker, L Storm (2018), Project Gutenberg (2018), The Menu (2015), and Chasing the Dragon and its sequal (2017/2019).

All of the fictional segments are from made-in-Hong Kong productions.

Watch the propaganda video here.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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